Cannes spotlights NY as indie cinema powerhouse

By Thomas Urbain — New York directors Noah Baumbach and the Safdie brothers, who have films in the running for this year’s Palme d’Or in Cannes, spotlight the vitality of independent cinema in America’s cultural capital. Thousands of miles from the bright lights of Hollywood, New York has for decades been an inspiration for greats in US cinema. “There’s absolutely a circle of film geeks,” said filmmaker Nathan Silver, whose latest film Thirst Street is just out. “A lot of directors are using the same cinematographers, composers. I rather enjoy it. I like being able to go to a movie and recognise everyone who’s in the theater.”
Fellow New Yorker Oscar Boyson has co-produced two of Baumbach’s films and two feature films with Josh and Benny Safdie, including Good Time — the bank robber flick in the running for this year’s Palme d’Or.
“It feels there’s a lot of support and people do assist each other,” said Jonathan Wacks, founding director and professor at New York’s Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, the only film school in the United States built on a working film lot.
If New York is nearly always represented one way or another at Cannes, it is the first time in years that two director teams, so closely identified with the city are going head to head in the competition lineup.
Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories stars Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, and is a comedy about siblings dealing with an ageing father. Good Time stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Robert Pattinson.
Other luminaries in the contemporary New York indy cinema world are Geremy Jasper, part of this year’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, Laura Poitras, who won the 2015 Oscar for best feature documentary, Bennett Miller, who won best director at Cannes in 2014, and Benh Zeitlin, who won the Golden Camera in Cannes in 2012.
Part of the vitality stems from the state’s offer in 2004 of tax incentives to encourage cinema and television production to grow further.
Inspiration comes also from the city’s nervous energy, its metropolitan bustle and from the streets. “You’re constantly running into bizarre people and bizarre situations because everyone is squeezed in tight places with a bunch of strangers,” said Silver.
A lot have a love-hate relationship with the city of 8.5 million that feeds their creative juices,” said Silver. — AFP

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